- State govt claims it had intel inputs that protests could turn violent; bench terms crime ‘horrifying’
A 19-year-old Dalit gang rape victim was cremated in the dead of the night last week to avert an extraordinary law- and-order problem posed by protesters and political parties intent on stoking caste clashes, the state government told the Supreme Court, which on Tues- day described the incident as “horrible” and “extraordinary”.
A three-judge bench of the apex court was hearing a public interest litigation seeking a Cen- tral Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, directed the state government to place on record the steps taken to ensure protection of witnesses even as the UP government acquiesced to a top court-moni- tored CBI probe into the Septem- ber 14 incident and the woman’s death on September 29 that trig-
ment. The court also asked the state to ascertain whether the family engaged a lawyer and sought details of the scope of proceedings relating to the inci- dent before the Allahabad high court. The next hearing is on October 8.
The court proceedings came a day after the state government ordered a probe into an “interna- tional conspiracy” to destablise the administration.
In a 129-page affidavit, the state government contended “intelligence inputs” pointed to political parties and organisations trying to exploit the situation on September 30 – a day after the victim died at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, triggering street protests.
“Intelligence inputs were specifically received late at night on September 29 that lakhs of protestors of both communities along with supporters of some political parties and media will assemble on the morning of September 30 at the village. The [Hathras] district administration took the decision to convince the parents of the victim to cremate her with all religious rites at night to avoid large scale violence,” the affidavit said.
Pressed for answers
WHAT U.P. GOVT SAID?
- Intelligence inputs pointed to political parties and organisations trying to exploit the situation
- Lakhs of protesters planned to assemble on September 30, gathering could have turned violent
- Hence, family was asked to cremate the victim as per religious customs
- There should be a CBI probe into alleged criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict, instigate violence, and into propaganda
- A forensic report showed that the woman was not raped
WHY IT’S UNDER FIRE
- The family has said that they were locked inside while some members were forcibly taken for cremation in the dead of the night
- The government took the unusual step of sealing off Hathras to outsiders, including the media
- The initial delay in the forensic examination may have led to crucial evidence being lost
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
“It is a horrible incident. It is
extraordinary. We want to know from you whether witness protection plan is in place. File an affidavit.”
“What is the present scope of the proceedings before the high court and how can we widen it and make it more relevant.”